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Nancy Dumas was an elder; someone who shared advice and stories with members of the Marcel Colomb First Nation in Manitoba.
It was the 1960s, and that community — known as Tent Village because all members lived in tents — stayed outside the parameters of northwest Manitoba’s Lynn Lake; a mining town where Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples were not permitted to live.
The village was crowded and bleak, and Dumas, who was Cree, lived among its people.
“Like any elder, she had wisdom,” said Andrew Colomb, chief of the community.
But he says it wasn’t her insight alone that made Dumas a prominent thread in the community’s historic tapestry; she helped others stay strong when its people were fighting for a home.
In the 1980s, the community began asking for their own First Nation within Lynn Lake, Man. but they wanted to build it upon land outside the town.
At first, the Marcel Colomb First Nation was one with the Mathias Colomb First Nation, but it subsequently split and lobbied the federal government to recognize the two as separate.
“...We were determined,” said Chief Colomb.
“...Our trailblazers were determined to one day make this a reality and have our children calling a place home... Nancy Dumas was one of them.”
In 1999, 12 years after Dumas vanished, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development recognized the Marcel Colomb First Nation as the 62nd First Nation in the province on behalf of the federal government.
“And because [there was] a dream and a vision that needed to be fulfilled, [Nancy Dumas] needed to be there to push forward and make people strong in not giving up...”
In 2015, the Marcel Colomb First Nation is located in Black Sturgeon Falls Reserve, Man.
There are resources and new projects that further the settlement Dumas fought for, but has yet to witness.
“She’s... the heart and soul of the whole process moving forward... she was one of the bravest women to... be able to stand up...,” said Chief Colomb.
Dumas has one surviving daughter who lives on the First Nation. She only speaks Cree.
The chief insists people who know about the case, and what have happened to Dumas, but have yet to come forward, live there, too.
He supports a national inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous women.
“Oh my goodness, yes,” he said about the possibility.
“100 per cent. 110 per cent I would support that.”
To him, that would mean living up to the country’s values.
“...This is what Canada stands for, is to protect its people... Let’s not just, you know, say who we are and practice something else.”
The CBC made an effort to speak with family members of Nancy Dumas. Chief Andrew Colomb informed the CBC that Nancy's remaining daughter, Emily Bear, can only speak Cree. Chief Colomb spoke to the CBC on her behalf.
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.